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3-year-old Alexander and almost-2-year-old Sophia.

Jim Gehrz,

Sophia & Alexander: Little siblings, big hearts

  • Article by: Gail Rosenblum
  • Star Tribune
  • February 20, 2012 - 3:31 PM

They are often mistaken for twins, which isn't surprising. They weigh the same, about 30 pounds, and are equally blessed with cherubic faces, saucers for eyes, ample hair.

What is surprising is how 3-year-old Alexander ("Zander" to his family) and almost-2-year-old Sophia relate to each other, moving through the world less like the siblings they are, and more like one being.

"He thinks up what needs to be done and she does it," says their mom, Amy DiPaola, of Minneapolis.

Sophia, all big moves and energy, holds Zander, who cannot yet walk, when they go down a slide.

She spoon-feeds him yogurt and takes off his shoes when they enter the house. Zander, whose vocabulary and insights are mind-boggling ("How's your mother doing?" he asks a visitor), warns his sister when she swings on the bars of his tiny walker or trips over toys.

"Baby," he tells her, "you'll hurt yourself." • Zander stopped breathing during a nap when he was 3 months old. His day-care provider found him, blue, and did CPR.

There were 10 days at Children's Hospital of Minneapolis, panic that loss of oxygen might leave him blind (it didn't) and now a routine that includes physical and occupational therapy, yoga, swimming and other activities to strengthen his legs so he can one day walk, which his mom says he will do.

"I never ask the therapists what they think," Amy says. "Not that I don't care, but I just want to hear what things I can do to work with him." She and husband Sam are comforted by many helpers, but they know that one stands out.

"There you go, Nanna," Sophia tells her brother, using his pet name, as she shuts the door to their colorful playhouse. Zander responds appropriately. "Careful, baby. Careful."

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